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Game Preview: Florida State at #3 Virginia

The Seminoles have another tough one ahead.

If there’s one game Virginia had circled coming into this season once the schedule was released, it was the return of Florida State to Charlottesville. They’ll be able to get their revenge from last year’s disappointing loss with the first game in ACC play for the 2022-23 season. Let’s revisit last year’s game just briefly. 

For Florida State, this is an opportunity to start fresh. ACC play is even 0-0, and even though they still lost to Purdue, they played tough the entire way, maybe giving them something to build on this weekend and heading into ACC play. Sure, they might be 1-8 so far, but they know how to beat Virginia’s system as well as anyone. We’ll see how they can get it done. 

This game will be at 2 PM EST on ESPN2, live from John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA.

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#3 Virginia Cavaliers Breakdown

Ho Hum, Virginia is good again. And to me, it comes as a surprise. It’s essentially the same roster as last year, but they’re just playing a lot better, especially big-man Kadin Shedrick. He’s going to be in conversations for ACC's Most Improved Player if he keeps it up, but we’ll touch on him more in a minute. 

Virginia won the national title in 2019, Kihei Clark was on that team. He thought he was done after last year, but met with Coach Bennett and was welcomed back for another season for what feels like his 7th season in Charlottesville. He’s as steady as he’s ever been, averaging 9 points and 5 assists, with less than two turnovers per game, and shooting a career-best 44% from 3. And despite all of this, he’s the only starter not averaging between 11 and 12 PPG. Every other starter is averaging between 11.3 and 11.8 PPG, an incredibly well-balanced, well-oiled machine that is really difficult to gameplan for. 

I know I said Kadin Shedrick will be in conversations for ACC MIP, but so will Reece Beekman, as he’s been incredible to start the season. As the leading scorer, he’s shooting 57% from 3, 86% from the free throw line, and is still a premier defender in the country, averaging 2.7 steals+blocks per game. He needed to take this kind of jump offensively for Virginia to get back to elite levels, and I honestly didn’t expect him to get there, but he’s seriously proving me wrong.

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Jayden Gardner is picking up right where he left off last season, shooting 50% from the floor, and has stretched his game out to 18 feet, being able to hit those shots consistently if the big man guarding him sags off. He’s also their best rebounder, and someone FSU is going to have to find when the ball goes up. 

Armaan Franklin struggled at times last season to get the system nailed down, but he seems much more comfortable in the mover blocker offense now. He shot just 39% from the floor and 29% from 3 last year, he’s upped that to 43% from the floor and 39% from 3 to start the season, all while being just as deadly from midrange. FSU played him while he was at Indiana, and continues to have to deal with him. 

Kadin Shedrick jumped from 6.9 PPG in 20 minutes last year to 11.3 PPG in 23 minutes this year. He’s playing with confidence and physicality that he didn’t play with last year, and it’s something this team desperately needed. Their big play has been suspect ever since Jack Salt and Jay Huff graduated. Shedrick still has a way to go physically, but he’s showing massive improvement. 

Really the only other guys you’ll see play are Ohio transfer Ben Vander Plas, a versatile forward that can play either post spot, Francisco Caffaro who will play spot minutes at center, and Isaac McKneely who can play either guard spot. 

After years of experimenting with other offenses, Virginia is back to their bread and butter mover blocker offense that they will run until the defense can’t take it anymore. It takes a lot of patience, a lot of control, and a lot of repetition. 

Florida State Seminoles Breakdown

I was pleasantly surprised by FSU’s effort against Purdue. There are no such things as moral victories, but there were positives to take away, especially with the way Darin Green Jr and Matthew Cleveland played. If they could’ve gotten more scoring from the bench, there’s a decent chance they win the game (ignore the 10-point result, it was much closer than that for most of the game). Now they’ll be playing an even better defense, as Virginia is 17th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency, whereas Purdue is 26th. And it’s on the road. 

FSU has had success recently playing Virginia, having won 4 of the last 5, and the one loss was by 5 at Virginia. They know how to beat this system, at this point it just comes down to execution. I get those are different teams and different seasons, but this staff knows how to win against Virginia, which matters. 

The point guards are going to be big in this game. Caleb Mills, Jalen Warley, and Chandler Jackson are all going to need to have productive and smart games, low turnovers, high-efficiency scoring, and passing. The more they can create for Darin Green and Matthew Cleveland, the easier it’ll be for everyone to score. 

It’s been rough going to start, but it’s essentially a whole new season. No time for a fresh start like this game right here. Come out with great energy and see what happens, maybe you’ll surprise some people. 

Injury Report

Baba Miller is suspended 7 more games due to NCAA suspension.

Jaylan Gainey is out for the season with an ACL Injury.

Jeremiah Bembry is out indefinitely with a back injury. He did go through warmups against Purdue, so he may be back sooner rather than later. 

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Reece Beekman rolled his ankle against Michigan Tuesday night and may be limited against Florida State, though he did finish the rest of the game even if he wasn’t nearly as impactful.

Kadin Shedrick took a Hunter Dickinson elbow to the mouth against Michigan and came away with a bloody mouth. Not sure how that will impact him in this one. 

Projected Starters

Virginia

G: Kihei Clark

G: Reece Beekman

G: Armaan Franklin

F: Jayden Gardner

C: Kadin Shedrick

Florida State

G: Caleb Mills

G: Darin Green Jr

G: Matthew Cleveland

F: Cam’Ron Fletcher

C: Naheem McLeod

Keys to the Game

Attack UVA Bigs With Quick Passes

With UVA’s patented pack-like defense, their bigs will come heavy hedge on ball screens (meaning they go above the level of the screen) to force the ball handler to take another step above and avoid easy passes. FSU has had a tendency to just dribble above the hedge, but I’m not the biggest fan of it. I’d like to see FSU take advantage of it occasionally by reversing a pass to the corner and quick pass inside for the rolling big who will either be open or have a smaller defender on them. 

Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson was able to abuse UVA’s big with his size and skill, FSU doesn’t have a player like that to take advantage. 

Be Strong With the Basketball

Florida State has struggled with turnovers at times this season, turning the ball over on an average of 14 times a game. When driving into the gaps of the pack-line defense, you have to be strong with the ball so the defenders don’t rip it away. If you can find ways to break through that initial line, there are plenty of opportunities to score, just have to actually be able to, and FSU’s guards have been suspect to start the season. 

Patience

When playing against Virginia, you have to be patient. They will run the same motions over and over and over in the mover blocker offense, just waiting for someone to slip up, go for a steal, and get caught out of position, and then they know how to break it down from there. FSU has to go through the motions on defense and play sound, disciplined defense. Force shots to be as difficult as possible. They have 4 players averaging 11 PPG and that’s not including Kihei Clark, any of them are more than capable. 

On the flip side, FSU has to be patient on offense. The more they rush into shots, the more Virginia is going to be okay with it. There’s a difference in playing fast and playing impatient. Keep working for the best shot and good things will come. 

Game Prediction

Virginia is favored by 19 points, with an over/under of 131. Basically, Vegas thinks it’s going to be a 74-55 game, which is crazy to think about.

I get FSU has only one win, and is 2-7 against the spread, but 19 points to Virginia seems like a ton. I just don’t think there will be enough possessions to lose by 20. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the good fight against Purdue, but FSU should cover, even if they end up losing by double digits. 

Virginia 71 FSU 59

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